BREAKING INTO FILMS
Ric 'The Equalizer' Drasin
One day after a workout, Arnold and I were on the sands and had just completed a run on the beach when we were approached by a man and woman who said that they were shooting a TV commercial and wanted us to come down on Monday to audition. Monday came and we went along with maybe 30 other guys who were all bodybuilders. It was for Chevy and the skit was for 8 of us to lift up a new car called Heavy Chevy.
They picked us and it included, Arnold, Myself, Chuck Faust (bodybuilder) Steve Marjanian (well known strongman) Jim Morris, (Mr. America) and a few of the Los Angeles Rams at the time. We all arrived at the beach that morning and they gave us all haircuts as they wanted us to look clean and neat. I persuaded them to let me just put my hair over my ears instead. The car was cabled as we lifted it and then it went into the air.
This was my first introduction to the film business here in Los Angeles. In
Bakersfield while I was attending college I had a one-hour kids program with
cartoons and live animals. I was called Jungle Rick and was one of the characters
on the show that drew cartoons of the animals that came in. The way I got this
job is really bizarre. I got arrested one night at Shakey's Pizza Parlor, for
curfew if you can believe that. They took several of us in to the Sheriff's
station and called our parents. I was going to be 18 in a week for God's sake.
Well, as I was sitting at the station, I drew some cartoon characters on a piece of paper and shoved it in the Sheriff's desk. The Sheriff was Howie Wines who had a kids TV show in the mornings called 'Deputy Howie'. He came to work and found my drawings and my signature. A few days later he called me and asked if I had done that and wanted to offer me a job on his TV show. I took it and we became good friends. In time I was running the show and doing all the live commericals. It was great training for me. I think he paid me $10 a week. That was more of a joke than anything.
This Chevy Commercial was much better and much more money being that it was a national commercial. We made $1000 for the day plus residuals.
After that I thought I'd find an agent as see if I could get more work. I had a family friend whose brother was a Theatrical Agent and I called him for an interview. He liked me and asked me to get pictures, which I did, and then he started submitting me for shows. He got me a role on the F.B.I. series with Efrem Zimbalist. I played a jewel thief. This was a funny story as I had one line, which was, 'It's Occupied'. Of course I rehearsed it over and over with different expressions. What did I know? I had to make it work for me.
Well I was on the set and we did a rehearsal. Now Efrem is suppose to approach me as I'm guarding a rest room that has a jewel deal going down in there and he says ,' excuse me," and I reply. " it's occupied."
Ok, rehearsal is up, Efrem approaches me and says , 'excuse me', I said, oh, ok sure! What???????? This is rehearsal! Oh, I thought, I mean he was so believable that I really thought he wanted to get by me. Well, I did it and got it right and then after that, started getting more work in films.
I had done several films and commercials after that and did a lot of print ads for cigarette companies. I had that Tom Selleck look at the time and it worked. I did,
Salem, Camel, Winston, and Kent cigarettes and today have a 3-year contract with WEST cigarettes in Germany as their Wrestling Character.
There were a lot of Beer commercials back then too in which I did, Michelob, Coors (twice) , Iron City Beer and the famous wrestling Bud Lite Commercial.
So, I was on my way in the film business.
I proceeded to go on auditions and landed a really good commercial with Irish Spring Soap. I did everything wrong on the audition. I showed up with a full beard, which they didn't want, and was suppose to do an Irish accent. I had no clue it was expected and really wasn't sure how to do it. So, I faked it and I sounded more Yiddish than anything. Well, got a call later that night that I booked it but wanted me to shave off the beard. So I did. It was a spot Arm Wrestling over a tree trunk with Martin Cove, a well-known actor. He did the accent and I was the counterpart. But it worked out well and ran for 15 months on the National scale. This is when video machines first came out and I have a copy of it on an old Quasar that has it's own format, so there's no way to play these days. I'm sure glad that I'm up to date now and can keep a library of my work.
Time moved on and I started booking more commercials, one after another. I
was having a good run at it. A film came up looking for bodybuilders and I was
at Gold's gym answering the phones when some of these calls came through. I
told some of the guys and we went to the audition. It was the famous Actress
Mae West and this would be her last film. It was called 'Sextette.' There was
a cast of 25 or more famous people including Ringo Star, George Hamilton, and
so many more. The wanted a handful of bodybuilders in the gym as she was famous
for hanging out with them. In my scene she approaches me as I lift a weight
and asks if it's heavy. I responded by saying, "I lifted twice this much
the year before', and she replied, 'did you get a medal" and I said, 'No,
I got a hernia'.
It was a fun gag and got some laughs. Some of the bodybuilders that were on it with me were Reg Lewis, Jim Morris, Franco Columbo, Kal Skalak, Brian Abade, Roger Callard and Dave DuPree. We were only suppose to have a few days on it but because she was getting pretty old and not showing up, we ended up doing over a month at full pay.
Some of the other jobs I got from answering the phone at Gold's were , The Flip Wilson Show, Cher, Johnny Carson, Mitzi Gaynor, Carol Burnett, etc. I was able to work with Sammy Davis Jr. , Helen Reddy, William Conrad, Cher, The Muppets, Bill Cosby, Ray Charles, and the Smothers Brothers. They were all on these particular shows. Sammy Davis took us all to lunch one day and it was a blast. What a great guy he was.
On the Cher show I had a week of rehearsals with her at CBS studios. We broke for lunch and I was coming up the elevator with Archie Bunker. He Arch! As I walked into the rehearsal hall, Ray Charles was practicing on the piano by himself. I went over and sat down next to him as he played and sang a couple of songs. Just Ray Charles and Myself. I wanted to call all my friends and hold the phone out and say, "Hey listen!', guess who this is? I'm having a private concert. That is something that I'll never forget. What an amazing treat that was. Imagine if he knew who he was sitting next to!!! Ha!
Another show that came up was a series called 'Quark' with Richard Benjamin. I played a Cyborg monster in some sort of suit with a huge mask. I was scheduled for 2 days but it rained and I ended up getting 4 days out of it. I had the flu and a high fever and this suit didn't help at all. They piped in oxygen underneath the mask to make it more comfortable for me. Joan Van Ark was the lead on the show and had to wear this sort of see through gown with a split in the legs. They put a fan on her to blow the costume around and as I approached her to attack, I noticed that the fan blew the gown back and she wasn't wearing any underwear! Hmm. What now? Do I continue my attack or give her a remark, which I'm good at. I just continued as she wouldn't hear me through the mask anyway. We had to do that scene many times over. Got to know her parts pretty well by then.
Doing shows then was really a lot of fun because every show and every audition was a new experience. It's not like going to the same boring job everyday. This can give you a really good outlook on life. It's got challenge and keeps you motivated. But, on the flip side of that there are those who don't book any jobs, get discouraged, depressed and want to quit the acting business. I can't imagine every quitting. The older you get the more you get seen, known and create more character with age. This only opens more doors. So you have to look at it that way.
I later auditioned for the movie "BEN" which was the sequel to 'Willard',
the Rat movie. I tried out for a gym instructor who was 'gay' or back then a
little on the feminine side. That didn't bother me, hell, it's an acting role
and will just give me more latitude. So, I went in and read for casting and
did it as swishy as I could.
They liked it and had me come back to read for the director. When I walked in I gave him a 'limp' handshake and said, wonderful to meet you, in a very gay voice. He cracked up and said, 'that's perfect, great acting'. I said, 'who's acting, that's the way I always talk. We both laughed and he had me read the lines and I booked the role. There I was on the Big Screen now playing a bizarre character, getting eaten by rats and hitting them off with a broom. Later on this went to video and when I picked one up to look at it, I was on the back cover. Not a bad place to be seen.
Soon after there was a call for 'Charlie's Angels' and episode called 'Mr. Galaxy' about bodybuilding. I remember going into read among many other bodybuilders and it was the lead-starring role, so it took some acting ability. I read for casting and the director said, 'finally a bodybuilder that can act.' I booked it and we worked a week on it. Roger Callard played my counter part and we had a good time with it. I was supposed to be a corrupt 7-time winner of Mr. Galaxy and they thought I was trying to kill Roger. So, the Angels followed me around to see my activities and towards the end realized that I was developing a gym for kids. I wasn't bad after all. But I can honestly say today that those 3 Angels followed me around for a week. Wouldn't that be nice in real life. I left in a car one day to a location where they were following me and I was wearing a white sweater. When I showed up and got out of the car, I was wearing a blue and white striped sweater. I guess they didn't catch the wardrobe change in continuity and I didn't say anything just to see if they would. So now when you see the show, you wonder why I changed so fast. Now you know! It's not unlike me to pull those stunts.
I did a film with Billy Zane and Lou Gossett called 'Flashfire' and also entitled 'August Fires". I was the main killer in the film and killed off a couple of women and a cop. I had a scene in a hotel room where one of the girls is stripped to the waist and I'm in disguise with a baseball cap and a pair of glasses with a fake nose. Well, I tell her not to look at me and when she does, I pull the gun on her. She in turn hits me with a glass vase. I purposely knocked off the glasses and cap cause I wanted to make sure that people knew who I was in that particular scene. The director asked why they kept coming off and I told him logically that would happen. So he agreed. You have to speak up for yourself and make yourself known or they'll walk all over you.
Just recently I was eating lunch one day and up walked Lou Gossett. He sat down and said, 'didn't we do Flashfire together. Of course I said yes and he joined me for lunch. He has his own production company now and said he'd bring me in on the next film. It's nice to be remembered.
I've been very lucky in the film and commercial business. I have developed a look that works for me and one that people like and like to use. Plus it's important to be humble and professional and treat everyone with respect. It comes back to me over and over again.
I learned a lot of psychology from wrestling. Learning how to control an audience. Learning how to control a match using my logic of what sells and what doesn't sell. You must have a reason for everything you do in the ring and you must have a reason for everything you do in life and know the repercussion of what you do before you do it.
You want a positive repercussion so plan it that way. Wrestling has helped me tremendously to recognize this in myself and how to read other people as well.
There is one field that I would love to explore some more. I'm good at comedy and have been told many times to go into 'stand up'. I have been thinking of it more and more and trying to come up with a routine that would go against my character look. I know that in the field of 'stand up' there is no one out there who looks like me and this is to my advantage. Not long ago I did a couple of hours of radio over at ComedyWorld.com. This inspired me even more to follow up on this. So, don't be surprised if it's my next level of entertainment.